Justice not served
October 2, 2020
Last week, the charging decision against the officers involved in the no-knock warrant that took Breonna Taylor’s life – shot in her own home by Louisville police – resulted in zero charges related to her death. It left her family and community without any form of accountability against her killers after six months of waiting.This week, a judge gave Kentucky’s Attorney General Daniel Cameron until today to release tapes of that grand jury’s proceedings, after signs that no homicide charges had been suggested to the grand jurors. Predictably, he’s stalling.
Releasing these tapes, particularly in the context of a historically racist system, is the right decision. Let us break this down with some particularly key factors – and then you can learn more here.Let’s start with the grand jury system.
Grand juries are supposed to protect defendants and act as a check on prosecutors. They’re in the Constitution. But modern grand juries don’t let anyone but the jurors and the prosecutor inside. This secrecy can allow prosecutors to bend the evidence in favor of a desired outcome. In cases like Breonna Taylor’s, it obliterates community trust and reinforces America’s two-tiered legal system: One where Black and Brown people are easy to indict, while cops and the well-connected are easy to let off.
That takes us to the issue of prosecutors. Many prosecutors around the nation have a toxic, co-dependent relationship with police. They’re more than just institutional allies in law enforcement; they’re often partners in the police’s crimes. A prosecutor’s incentive is often to protect the officers they work with over the people they serve. The unending list of Black people killed by police without repercussions – Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, now Breonna Taylor – speaks to this issue’s dangerous persistence.
Casey, police, like anyone else, don’t deserve secret due process. And prosecutors like AG Cameron have a hard time judging them objectively within that process when they are so inextricably linked. Structural changes can and must be made, including by conscientious prosecutors themselves. Please learn more here.
The decision that came down from the grand jury last week was not accountability and not close to justice. Justice would have been LMPD officers never shooting Breonna Taylor in the first place.
Instead, what has unfolded is a continuation of a racist institution that has targeted and killed Black people for centuries. It shouldn’t take a national outcry for the public to know what really happened in the case against Breonna Taylor’s killers. So as we wait for the tapes to be released, we’ll continue to fight alongside the members of the Louisville community and the larger movement until power and resources shift away from policing and prosecution that regularly terrorizes our communities and the lives of those that we love – and we thank you for being with us in this work.
Until justice is realized,
Senior Staff Attorney, ACLU